18 Aug 2002, 14:02 PST, 2nd Edition
Sunday Morning Think Piece: Understanding our leader. What makes W. tick?
Over the last couple of days since Brent Scowcroft went public about his opposition to attacking Iraq there has been some suggestions made by talking heads that it is the former president Bush who may be pushing his junior to invade Iraq. It is also suggested that the reason for this 'pushing' is to 'clean up his (the elder Mr. Bush's) leftover Iraqi mess'. I disagree with these suggestions.
I am a big fan of the elder Mr. Bush. I strongly believe that he has not and is not exerting any influence on Junior, but merely acting in a capacity of a loving father (and former president with some experience in the matter) who is willing to help his son when possible. I believe that although 'cleaning up daddy's mess' is the primary factor for W.'s Iraq obsession, this is all Junior's idea and his alone. Brent and others have privately counseled W. against an unsupported, unjustified 'pre-emptive strike' against Iraq but W. has ignored them. Brent would not have gone public if he and others had some success in swaying W. in the other direction.
One has to understand George W. Bush to know what makes him tick. This is a man who has never had his own life. As his father's first son W. has always admired his father, to a fault. W. attended the same schools as his father, pursued the same civilian and military profession, adopted politics... nothing W. has ever done in his life has been far different than his father's life... or a caricature thereof. Also, the historic records clearly shows that throughout W.'s private and public adventures his father has never, repeat never, pushed his son to emulate or worship him... nor has he ever discouraged him. The elder Bush has always allowed his first son to walk in dad's footsteps and provided him backing or a steady hand to ensure the path his son walked was the path his father walked only because it was the son who expressed his only desire was to follow his dad. What father wouldn't do the same?
W.'s total devotion to his father was expressed during W.'s early White House days during his father's presidency. At that time W.'s sole job in the WH was to search and destroy anyone or any idea that wasn't on the same page as his dad. This was not a job his father requested of him or assigned him. It was a job W. insisted upon and granted by his father. W's untitled and informal job was accepted by his father's competitive underlings who fought amongst each other for first rung on the ladder. It would be fair to say that both the father and the son succeed in using others far more than others think they succeed in using or manipulating a Bush. And although a Bush will swear what appears to be undying allegiance to a subordinate, that allegiance is due equally to the subordinate's current willingness to assume responsibility and blame for a Bush error as well as their willingness to rubber stamp a Bush plan and attribute success of that plan to a Bush.
Although W. took no permanent favorites when playing one personality against another during his dad's White House days, he constantly let everyone, high and low, know that he would concentrate every fiber of his being to their complete public service destruction (not just dismissal) and private financial decline should their primary allegiance (private or public) disagree even in the slightest with his father's policies. Those who manipulated W. best, with W.'s permission, got the best seat at the table... only for as long as they continued to do what W. wanted, not what they thought they wanted. At the same time, those who naively or foolishly thought they had succeeded in manipulating W. earned his private suspicion and distrust because they failed to recognize that W. owes his allegiance to only one person. That person is his dad. Brent and others are now going public with their feelings contrary to W.'s only because they wrongly assumed that their WH contacts with W. were both convincing and eternal. Brent and others also failed to recognize that W. does what he does because he feels that he alone also knows what is best for his father, even in cases when his father might disagree. If W.'s father felt that the time was not yet right for invading Iraq he would not tell W. this. Nor would the elder Bush prevent others from telling his son this. He would tell his son that if he is going to invade Iraq, whether the invasion took place at the best or worst possible time, to make sure he completed the job. He would tell his son that success, no matter the consequences, is historically better than failure.
To the Bush family, blood is thicker than America. Just as some parents requiring frequent assurances that they alone are their kid's best buddy, they will occasionally allow an outsider adult to commit a controllable transgression against their kid so that the parent(s) can prove themselves heroes, rescuers or defenders to their children. The elder Bush is not without this sin. Brent and others will obtain the elder Bush's permission to publicly criticize Junior but not for policy sake as it appears. Permission is granted solely to allow father to bond more deeply as his son's one and only best friend. What we are witnessing in the media is not a policy difference among Bushites. All we are witnessing is a primordial family ritual involving basic, elementary bonding emotions between a parent and his child.
To have what he feels is a rounded life George W. Bush must do not only everything his father did, he must also do them better, but not to make himself appear better than his father. He must do them to make his father look better to others. This, often times, results in making some things worse before they can get better.
Failure is the primary instinct in the Bush male. Hatred for those who contributed to a Bush failure is their secondary instinct.
To understand the Bush failure complex one has to look back at the first public incident that seriously impacted on the total mind, body and soul of George Bush the father. During his first attempt for public office the elder George Bush ran as a liberal. Recognizing the terrible effect racial prejudice and violence had on the African American constituents of his district, George H. W. Bush made valiant and valorous efforts to convert his white friends and neighbors to accepting blacks as equals. But, for a state that happened to be the last to free its slaves, most regions of Texas adamantly refused to accept blacks as legal equals, let alone as human equals. The race issue defeated George H.W. Bush's first candidacy. It also solidified an iron will never to allow any liberal issue to result in another defeat. When running for election again George Bush ignored his black friends and neighbors, not because he joined racists in their belief that whites should continue to prevent blacks from becoming economic competitors, but because he realized that supporting any cause contrary to those of the voting majority would keep him unelectable.
The inability of G.H.W. Bush to recognize the strong will of the voting majority during his first bid for office remains the singlemost weakness of the Bush family. This same inability to recognize the people's will prevented G.H.W. Bush from accepting the economic facts of the devastating recession that eventually permitted a personally flawed, pip-squeak individual named Bill Clinton from a pip-squeak state, Arkansas, to soundly/roundly end his first tour as president, having ridden in on the coattails of one of the most popular presidents in recent memory, Ronald Reagan.
The DNA of the younger Bush possesses the same weaknesses of his father, and then some. Most imitations are generally inferior to the original model. The failure of a Bush to recognize popular will is compounded by their need to surround themselves only with people who repeat them verbatim and exclude all those who don't. All of the Bush advisors and lieutenants would be political nothings without George Bush. This includes Colin Powell. Although Colin remains high in popularity polls, no one knows better than Colin himself that because he is black he could never win a presidential election during his lifetime. Colin is well aware that because words don't really mean anything, whites have no problem responding favorably toward a black candidate or possible candidate to a pollster. But because action speaks more real life than words, going into a voting booth and actually pulling the lever for a black man for president in a general election goes beyond the physical capability of most whites.
The difference between many of the Bush appointees and those of previous presidents is that appointees of other presidents were generally well known and respected individuals who possessed either solid electability or popular potential in their own right. Oppositely, most of W.s 'groupthink' surroundlings are wholly dependent on George W. Bush for their present levels. And because their philosophies border on the narrow, are fueled by the extreme, and supported only by the fact that they have W.'s ear and others don't, their advice and consent to the whims of W. to cleanse and purity his father's failures carry the day.
The thing that makes W. tick is his father, a dad who has always felt honored by his Number One son's total devotion to dad.
To those intellectuals who seek a deeper understanding for our current president's inner motivations and drives you need look no further than what appears obvious on the surface. There is no deepness to George W. Bush. There is no Lincolnian wisdom, no Rooseveltlian foresight, no Kenneyesque instinct, no Reaganist simplicity. What you see on the surface of George W. Bush is all there is.
It is unfortunate both for George W. Bush and our country that Bill Clinton's presidency wasn't separated from a Bush Administration by at least one, possible two, interlopers. Assuming title immediately following the president who defeated and humiliated his father continues to seethe in every one of his W.'s cells. He sees his disputed presidency not as a electoral college defeat of Al Gore but as a popular vote repudiation of Bill Clinton. This is read by W.'s closest advisors who manipulate and reverberate this underlying hatred by refusing to consider any policy from the Clinton Administration regardless of the fact that policy worked or could have worked. By ignoring, rejecting or reversing many Clinton/Gore ideas and desires the price paid is evident in every pocketbook and on every battlefield. Shortages, inconclusiveness, monolithic, unilateralistic. And they are displayed to the public as flip-floppish when W. is forced to agree, by sheer weight of evidence, that many of his rival's ideas were sound, after all.
George W. Bush is not fighting a war against terrorism or liberalism. He is fighting a war within himself to be the undisputed winner he believes his father wanted George Herbert Walker Bush to be. And just as his name differs slightly from his father's ('Herbert' eliminates George W. from being a factual/legal 'Junior') his worship and desire to force the rest of the world to idolize his dad as he does always comes up two syllables and several complete successes short... and, if the past is a guide, always will.
Perhaps it would be better in the long run if the elder Bush assumed the position Dick Cheney and W.'s greedy, self-interested advisors hold. If the elder Bush had his past errors to do over again it is possible we may still soon invade Iraq. However, it stands to reason that an agreed upon justification would exist because a foundation for invasion would be established, where no foundation exists or is agreed upon today. It is also probable that our economy would be far better than it is today. The elder Bush would not make the same mistake twice, as his son has done, and as Bush Sr. realized after his first election defeat. Where the elder Bush often compromised, his son appears to have not inherited this gene. Or, out of fear from living in a one-term presidency, W. has tasked himself to race full steam ahead, damn the torpedoes, wearing blinders that ignore all things on the peripheral, seeing only the desired goal to leave behind a closed chapter in history that records the name of Bush as having finally succeeded in proving they succeeded, if only to themselves.
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